I have had a cold for a few days, and when this morning I woke up with two painful ears, my worry that I might have an ear infection caused me to abandon my long-standing practice of waiting colds out with over-the-counter medications and seek out a doctor.
I called my “regular” doctor, waited on hold for 20 minutes, explained my predicament, and was told that I could be seen tomorrow afternoon.
I was explaining this frustrating delay to my girlfriend when she suggested I call Zoomcare, a relatively new urgent-care style doctor shop in Portland. I went on their website and made myself an appointment this afternoon (although I should note that I could have scheduled myself for a visit as soon as 30 minutes later).
I provided my name, insurance information, email address, and a brief description of my symptoms. Zoomcare followed up five minutes later with an e-mailed confirmation of my appointment, complete with driving directions to their location.
My appointment was at 3:00, but I arrived at 2:45, expecting to be handed the customary clipboard with loads of redundant forms to fill out by hand. Instead, the receptionist smiled, asked me for my ID, and asked me to take a seat while I waited for the doctor.
About two minutes later, the Doc came out and ushered me into an exam room. She interviewed me and checked me out. There were no handwritten records anywhere — she typed everything about the visit onto a laptop, which was hooked up to an external monitor so I could review her notes on the fly. I ended up with a diagnosis of a slight ear infection.
No more than ten minutes later, I was checking out with the receptionist, antibiotic prescription in hand, and walking out the door. With the prescription came some automatically printed helpful directions for its use for me to take with me. Those directions also included a link to an online video about my ear infection if I wanted to learn more.
Total visit time: about 10 minutes. I was literally back in my car driving home before 3:00, when my appointment was scheduled to begin.
I can’t help but marvel at how well Zoomcare has improved the process of the doctor visit, relative to every other doctor’s office I have been to. No clipboards, no forms, no waiting, no shuffling between nurses and doctors, no time even to read two-month-old magazines in the exam room! I was thoroughly impressed.
Is Zoomcare the future of health care? If you’ll permit me to editorialize for a moment, I certainly hope so. It was, after all, private capitalists who thought this up and delivered it. One can only hope there remains room for them in our country’s future health care system.